Impact on the Heart

byMSTarot©

"I hope so my shoulder still hurts something horribly."

I give the receptionist a wink back when she gives me one. I hold the door open for Casey to walk out. Then I step ahead of her to the passenger side of the rental.

She shakes her head with a roll of her eyes then stops and looks at the car.

"That's not what you were driving yesterday."

"Nope. I'm going through a one-day midlife crises. It's been so long since I dated I had to do some research." I close her door and walk around to my side. When I get in I stick the key into the ignition. "According to my reading hot young chicks dig fancy sports cars." I crank the car with its rumble and pat the gas.

She shakes her head and grins at me.

"But I don't car about cars. They just a hunk of sheet metal to drive from place to place."

I give an overly dramatic sigh.

"Well there goes that research out the window. I guess you don't like to talk about sport either?"

She chuckles and shakes her head.

"Not really?"

"Damn." I drop the car into gear and back up. "And I spent all those hours reading up on curling."

Listening to her laughing I pull the car out and head towards the inner state.

"Where are we going?" she asks when I hit the off ramp.

"It's also a surprise, but this one I couldn't wrap. I tried I really did but I just couldn't get forty thousand rolls of wrapping paper on short notice."

She rides in silence for a few seconds.

"You're acting a bit strange." She says to me after a moment.

I glance over at her

"Yea. I Know. I'm nervous."

I see her eyebrows crease.

"Why?"

"Oh I don't know. I'm thirty-five you're twenty-three. I've not dated in a few years, you're out of my league."

I see her turn to look at me

"I'm out of your league? A telemarketer who reads romance novels and can't hang onto a boyfriend? What league are you playing in?" she asks with a chuckle.

I smile, but can't think of an answer.

Hitting the signal I take the off ramp. I see her eyes go to the sign by the exit.

"The Aquarium?"

I nod, then grin.

"You said you like to watch fish. You really haven't given me much to work on as far as likes and dislikes."

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

The waiter sits us next to the huge tanks. The table is one of the few that is still empty. When I called they had told me they were booked solid but then changed and got me in. Valentines Day makes for a lot of changed plans.

A lot of changes.

I hold her seat till she sits.

"Oh would you stop that." She tells me with a blush.

"When you stop enjoying it I'll stop doing it."

Sitting down I look through the menu for a second. I don't really need to, I checked the menu online yesterday. Strangely there is a lot of seafood on it. Not feeling good about eating a fish with maybe his cousin staring at me from the tank next to me I order a steak.

She takes longer to order. After a glance at a little blue fish swimming next to her she make a similar decision.

"Go on, Dory. I'm having the chicken." She tells the fish.

When the little blue fish swims off I can't help it.

"Keep swimming, keep swimming."

We both break into laughter.

After a bit we end up just looking at each other over the table.

"Why?" she asks at last.

I lean back and then pick up my napkin roll. I lay the napkin across my knee as I ponder how to answer this questing. I don't come up with a good answer. I haven't since I started asking it to myself before I ordered the flowers.

"You won't accept that I have a hidden attraction to women that have been just dumped because they were in a car wreck will you?" I ask after a second.

She smiles but shakes her head.

"No, I won't. Come on out with it. You're a councilor, you're suppose to be good with words."

"Not when it gets personal. I'm never good with them then." I look over at the tank and my reflection. When I look back at her she waiting for the answer. From the look on her face she might just be willing to wait all day.

"I had a good time talking to you over coffee the other day. I came to realize that I've been just kind of drifting in place since my last relationship. I..."

"What?" she asks after a few moments.

I take a deep breath to settle my nerves. Normally I love the various feeling that come to me but not this one not today.

"Other than clients I don't really know a lot of people. Not a lot of women. Most of them are married or... I may have dated them at some point in the past. I don't really feel like trying to... take back on... a relationship that already failed once and I won't date a client. It's unethical for me to use the influence that I have to get women. I'm trying to help them, not form a dating pool. You're ...truthfully the only woman I've met recently that I really hit it off with... in any way."

She sits looking at me with her head tilted for a second.

"Did you try running into them with your car? That worked for me at least."

I chuckle and shake my head.

"Now better question. " I say moving my fork just a bit till it touched the spoon next to it. "Why did you say yes?"

She doesn't answer at first. Maybe she needs to form her thoughts or maybe the barracuda swimming by is a distraction.

"I don't really know. I think some of what you said to me made me think. About the men...boys... I've been dating. That maybe it was time I took a man out for a change."

Smiling I move my hand across the table till hers reaches over to take it.

"I'm flattered."

"Why? She asks after a second.

"That you think I'm a man. I just a mischievous little boy with evil intentions towards your virtue." My face splits into a grin.

"No you're not." She says giving my hand a swat. "You've been nothing short of a gentleman."

"Ah my dear but that is but carefully laid bait. And you've take it hook line and..." I look over at the little clown fish swimming by the glass. "...Nemo."

She laughs and shakes her head.

"Well if this is a trap at least you're feeding me well and taking me to nice places." She moves a hand over to by the tank and the little orange and white fish swims over to her hand looking for food. "What made you think of here?"

"You said you like to watch your fish. I figured if I proved to be a boring date you would at least have something to look at."

She looks back at me, then scoffs.

"Now you're sounding like me." She looks up as the waiter brings the appetizer. "Mmm god that smell wonderful."

I nod agreement and grab a piece of the bruschetta. The bread is wonderfully warm and buttery. I place a little of the hot cheese and then the tomatoes on it and sit back.

I watch her eat and she alternates between looking from the plate in front of her and me. Every once in a while we will both get distracted by some bit of exotic sea life.

"Jake?" she asks softly "Is this a trap?"

I sit the bit of bread down and dust crumbs from my hands.

"Well if it is it's a very humane one. You can slip out of it at any time. Not much of a trap then is it?" I take a sip of my soda. Letting it clear my mouth. "I would be lying though if I said I wasn't a male. With all the drives and wants of my gender. You're gorgeous, beautiful... young. Everything a guy my age would be looking for."

"Guys your age look for stay at home types, that talk on the phone all day?" She glances back at the tank. "And like to watch fish for fun?"

"Maybe the type that like to read romance novels turn me own. It could be a family genetic trait? Or maybe.... you would be the type who would like to have a story read to her?"

Her eyes pop wide at than and I sit back smiling.

"I remember my favorite passage from one of my Mom's books." I take a sip then lean forward. My eye half-close I picture the page, the top corner folded in my copy. "With slow feathery kisses like butterfly wings his lips made patterns of pleasure and lust up my neck. His lips kissing delicately into the soft hairs at the nape sending shivers through me. They travel across me to the very core of my..."

"Stop it!" she say then shivers.

I chuckle then sit back.

She looks at me blushing then slowly shakes her head.

"That was evil." She says after a moment.

"Want more?" I ask with a grin.

She is saved from having to answer as our food arrives.

Along with the third present.

The little box is silver and has a large silvery bow on top to match. It's sitting in the middle of a plate. The plate is placed in front of her

She stops in mid action then looks up at me.

"I do hope the bikini fits I had to guess at the size." I say sitting back hiding my mouth a bit with my hand. She looks back down at the box not much bigger than a matchbox.

The look she gives me is priceless.

I watch her open the box to revel the little card with the Aquarium logo blazed across it. She picks it up and turns it to the other side but it has no writings on it other than the big names.

She looks up to our waiter.

"It's a reservations card miss. Show that at the door and we have to seat you within thirty minutes or your meal is free." The waiter looks to me I nod thank you and he's off to another table. A gesture from him and our glasses are refilled by his helper.

"How much did this cost?" Casey asks holding the card up between us.

"Nope... no prices tags on presents. Besides it's only good for three times. Though it can be renewed."

She looks down and with a shake of her head places the card back into the little box.

"Jake, you've made me very self-conscious of the fact that I didn't get you anything."

"You got me you. I haven't had a date at Valentines Day in years. I've had no one to give flowers to or take out to eat." I grin. "No one I can lay romantic traps before, with the hopes of snaring. I've had more fun in the last few days than in a long time. So thank you." I pick up my soda and wish I had ordered us some champagne. "YOU, make a wonderful present my dear."

She smiles and shakes her head at me.

"Well just call me gift then."

I nod

"Alright... Gift."

Again she smiles and shakes her head

We eat in a comfortable silence while we watch each other eat. I wish I had better table manners but the food is good enough that I just give in and enjoy every bite. She eats like a conductor directing a symphony. Both hands working together in unison to handle knife and fork. For some reason watching her delicate throat swallow has me turned on.

More than once we both turn to find a fish watching us eat. It makes me very glad I didn't order seafood.

By the time the waiter comes over with the dessert menu I've leaned my chin on my hand and I'm simply starring into her eyes. She gives a blushing smile and takes the menu. I wave off mine.

She does things with a delicate deliberation. Her movements careful. I can see that she has still a lot of nerves making her a bit bashful around me but the majority of them have faded.

She looks up seeing me watching her and blushes.

"Would you stop that?" she asks with a grin.

I shake my head.

"Never." I answer back, also with a grin.

She rolls her eyes at me and goes back to looking at the menu. She makes her decision and order a piece of cheesecake. When the waiter leaves she looks back to me to find me still starring at her. She blushes ten shades of red.

"Would you stop starring at me?" she says giggling.

"I believe I said never. You did hear that right?"

"Please?"

I give a nod and look down. When I look back up she glances away from me quickly.

"Let me hold your hand." I ask.

She looks back to me blinking. Slowly hesitantly she reaches her hand across the table.

Her fingers are slim, delicate. The nails have been polished to a deep burgundy red. I trace the swells on top of one knuckle with my fingertips absently. I look up to find her watching me now.

"What is it?" I ask after a second.

"You're a hansom man." She says softly.

I chuckle.

"I'm hardly a romance cover model. No rock hard pecks, no washboard abs." I reach up and run a hand across my thinning hair. "Certainly no long flowing mane of hair."

"You don't need all that. You're hansom, you carry yourself with a distinguished air and a confidence. You remind me of one of my college professor in a way."

"Is that a good thing?" I ask playing with her fingers, gently.

She smiles then blushes a bit.

"Yes, it is."

I tilt my head and a slow grin appears.

"I hear a story there."

She looks at me and shakes her head. I give her fingers a squeeze. She looks up at me and then shrugs.

"Not all that much to tell. He was a history professor, Mr. Tillerman. I had such a crush on him. He was..."

"About six one with dark brown hair, thinning a bit on top. Had this habit of playing with his glasses when he was speaking." I say smiling.

She looks at me shocked.

"You know him?"

I nod my head.

"Yep. He was one of my clients a few years back. He came to me for counseling. He was having problems with his marriage."

Casey sits just looking at me for a moment then leans forward.

"Can I ask what?"

I grin

"Only if you want to be extraordinarily nosy." I chuckle "It wasn't much to tell. The old man problem. He was getting all kind of younger women flirting with him all the time then coming home to a wife that wasn't really paying him any attention. He was afraid that he was going to stumble." I shrug. "He came to me for advice."

She looks down and blushes.

"Wow, that hits a bit close to home."

"Oh, so you were one of the little flirts? You naughty thing."

"I was not!" she says shaking her head. "Well I didn't get too obnoxious with it anyway. Some of the other girls did. I remember one girl, a Candy...something another, said she was going to have him before the semester was out."

I nod.

"Yea. He told me he was doing nothing to bring it about but that he getting little love letters from his students almost every day."

"Really?" she asks after a second. I hear something in the tone of the question.

A smile slowly starts to come to my face.

"You sent him one. Didn't you?"

She looks away embarrassed then after a moment gives a nod.

"Just one. It wasn't much of a love letter, just me telling him I thought he was a nice looking man."

I nod accepting that.

She goes silent and after a moment starts watching the fish.

"Casey are you...?"

I stop speaking when I hear her cell phone go off. She blushes embarrassed that she didn't turn it to silent mode. I sit back to give her a bit of illusionary privacy as she checks the number then answers it. I catch the puzzled half frown.

I can just make out the mumbles of the person on the other end asking if she's Casey Shay.

"Yes, this is she."

The rest of the conversation on the other end is to low for me to hear but I get to see its effects.

All the color drains slowly from her face. I see her holding it together to stay on the phone.

"Yes.... thank you very much. Yes I understand, I'll be there just as soon as I can. No, thank you."

She closes the phone by habit. She lowers it to the table her eyes not focused. I see tears starting to drip down her cheeks. She grabs her napkin up and brings it to her face as she slowly sinks into first silent tears then full out crying.

Moving around to her, I take her into my arms. I don't know what's happen but I can see the need for a shoulder. She clutches to me and I hold her tight as she cries into my chest.

"Sir?"

I look up at our waiter.

"Is everything alright?" he asks.

"She got some bad news. If you would please go ahead and get the check." I hold Casey to myself by the back of her head, as shudders of pain and loss rack through her.

"Yes sir. I'll bring some to go boxes for your food as well. I'll be right back."

I hold her to me just being there for her. I still don't know what brought this on but at the moment it's not important that I do.

Holding her I'm only vaguely aware when the waiter and the manager come to the table. I brushing her soft hair as the tears slowly subside. I manage to fish my wallet out and point the manager to the top credit card.

She slowly pulls back and looks up at me just after I move my head back from resting against her hair.

Her face, so beautiful, is now a mess of makeup and tear tracks.

"Casey?" She tries to speak but can't.

I reach over and hand to her the glass from the table. She takes a sip then focuses on my eyes.

"My Dad just died."

I pull her back to me as she starts to cry again. I see others in the restaurant looking over at us with concerned looks.

I sign the check and help her to her feet without ever turning her lose really.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Her hand is in mine as we sit in the funeral directors office. It's been a long day for her but I've never left her side. She several times has had need of my shoulder and I've been there every time.

The trip to the hospital. All the papers for her to sign, the family priest is there to offer condolences. The family doctor there to explain the sudden death. Brain embolism while cutting the grass.

Then the families there. I meet an older sister who looks at me kind of strange, then a younger brother who doesn't even really look at me at all.

I'm there for her. Through out the day I turn down several offers to leave. When the tears stop she will say something to the effect of "Thank you, Jake, but I can handle it now, I'll call you later."

Then she can't handle it and my shoulder is there for her.

Her siblings leave it to her to deal with the arrangements. Given that they both seem to be a lot less emotionally tore up I think that's kind of wrong but I keep my piece.

Her head is on my shoulder from the director's office out to my car. Her arms wrapped around mine. As I unlock the car door she turns again into my chest, not to cry this time, but in need all the same. I hold her to me feeling the little spasms of agony come and go.

"Jake...you have been more than kind..."

"Hush now, my dear." I lift her chin till she's looking into my eyes. I gently smile at her. "I'm here till 'I' think you don't need me anymore, not the other way around. So hush." I say the last word in a soft breath. I lean her back into my chest and softly caress the back of her hair.

"I've got to go to my Dad's place. Go get the papers so I can find the documents I need. He had a burial policy and insurance, a Will but that's at the lawyers. I need to find the house deed, and the car titles ...all of that kind of thing."

I nod and help her into the car.

The smell of our food in the backseat comes to me as I open my door. Along with the fact that I didn't eat breakfast because of nerves and then barely had even tasted lunch before this started. I'd been too taken with watching her eat.

As I drive up in front of her father's home I see a park across the street.

"Casey? Would you like to go over there and finish our lunch first, though it's getting closer to dinner?"

She glances back into the back seat at the food and I hear her stomach growl. I laugh at her blush. There is the faint hint of a smile as she nods.

I grab out the bag with the boxes and come around to take her arm in mine.

I have to dust leaves off the top of the park bench but the seats are clean enough.

"Jake...I'm sorry for today." She says after I sit down.

I just look at her for a second.

"Casey, you are not responsible for everything that happens in this world. You don't have to apologize when the bad parts happen. I'm sorry... about your father, but I'm glad I was there for you when it happened. I don't even like to think about you having to deal with all this alone." I swallow and look down at my food then back up at her. "Casey I hate to ask but why are you doing this alone? Why aren't your brother and sister taking care of some of this stuff?"

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